Friday, 28 February 2014

'Nduja Linguine - Pasta Sauce for grown-ups

The day I discovered 'nduja (en-doo-ya) was a very happy day indeed. There was a stage when every food writer/journo/blogger was banging on about it so I thought it's probably worth a try. It was worth many tries and I implore you to give it a go. 'Nduja is a spicy, spreadable sausage from Calabria, Italy, and it is made with potentially undesirable parts of a pig's head with a firey whack of chilli. You can buy it in chunks, wrapped in its casing,  (see left) and you can melt chunks of it in purpose made clay erm, melting devices, you can stuff rolled pork belly with it, make scotch eggs with it (I will be soon,) or you can do as I have done here, and very simply melt it in a pan and toss through some pasta. The flavour is unique and really quite punchy, a little goes quite a way.

Feeds one: This is a quick dish so start by getting your pasta on the boil, I like to use linguine, something about how it feels on my toungue, ooh err, I just love it, but use what you have. Gently fry half a finely chopped onion and a small minced clove of garlic in a little olive oil, in a medium saucepan and cook until nice and soft. Break off a thumb sized piece of 'nduja and push it round until it have broken up and melted, leaving you with vibrant red oil and tiny nuggets of pork. Drain the pasta when al dente and add to the 'nduja pan along with a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley, I like the freshness of it, although it's not essential. Mix the pasta and sauce really well and flop it into a bowl, topping with plenty of grated parmesan. In 8 or 9 minutes you have a bowl of pasta to be proud of, so twirl away and don't worry about the fact you're eating pig's head. 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Chicken Schnitzel - Because everything tastes good crumbed and fried right?

Well maybe not everything tastes better crumbed and fried, but many things do, and this includes chicken
breasts. I almost never buy chicken breasts, tending to favour thighs, for flavour and price reasons, but I wanted to try out a sexy looking recipe involving stuffing the skin of chicken breasts with nduja. So like a complete moron I bought skinless ones by accident. I was genuinely annoyed I couldn't make what I had planned, but then I remembered the old classic Schnitzel. The method of bashing the hell out of the poor unwanted chicken breast, covering it with bread crumbs and frying, keeps the chicken moist and delicious. Apart from using lots of plates, it's very quick, great for week-time suppers when the last thing you want to be doing is faffing around the kitchen with some complicated recipe best saved for an idle Saturday.

Feeds two. Take two unwanted (or indeed wanted) skinless chicken breasts, and between two sheets of clingfilm, bash like you've never bashed before. You want the finished article to be no thicker than 2cm.  Choose your weapon wisely, a thick rolling pin works well, as does an empty wine bottle. You could use a meat tenderiser too, I just remembered I had one and will be using that next time. Doh. Have one shallow bowl at the ready and lightly whisk an egg into it. Put a handful of seasoned flour on a plate, and on a third plate put a couple of handfuls of bread crumbs mixed with a tbsp chopped thyme leaves and the chopped zest of a lemon. Heat up a non-stick frying pan and add a tbsp olive oil. Meanwhile take one steam-rollered breast, dip first in the egg, then the flour and finally the breadcrumbs, making sure you have good crumby coverage. Over a medium heat fry this bad boy, not forgetting about the other one. They only take about 4 minutes each side so do watch that they don't burn, golden is the aim, not charcoal. Flip over once golden and fry the other side. Serve with something green and maybe some spuds* of some description. Really nice with a squirt of lemon.

You could do this with pork loin, or veal would be great too. Just make sure there is lots of flavour in your breadcrumbs, don't burn it and you can't go wrong. 

*I asked the Boyfriend if he wanted some sort of carbs with dinner and he said 'What are carbs?' Oh to be a boy!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

When Hunger these seeded crisp breads

Birdseed never looked so good
When me and my two sisters were at school, unless my Mum had delicious meanwhiles* to subdue our pre-pubescent hunger, there was literally hell to pay. I would get stroppy, middle sister would have what can only be described as a rather petrifying fit of fury, and the little one would sob her eyes out in disbelief. Poor Mum. Usually we got iced buns or lardy cakes from Reeves (a brilliant chain of bakeries located in the South West of England) but on the occasion that she presented us with a crappy packet of digestives there were problems. Not a great deal has changed since then, I don't have babies to feed yet, but I do have a boyfriend who periodically screeches at me, eyes pleading, beak open, demanding food. When his blood sugar levels drop he gets hangry. A subject I find great amusement in discussing with little sister, as one of her besties can transform in the same way, a Jeckyl and Hyde moment. These specimens must be fed immediately.

I, however, do not suffer from hanger. Instead, when I get in from work, starving and desperate for food, I tend to pick away at the fridge until that nagging emptiness is gone. This is a terrible thing to do for several reasons: it undoes all the good work I have done at Bikram, I nearly always have cheese in the fridge which is what I grab first, and then I'm not that hungry for ages so we eat later than we should. At Christmas, the Boyfriend's Mum gave me some of these seeded crisp-breads that she'd made, and holy moly are they good for those just-got-in-from-work-need-a-nibble-now moments. Savoury and crunchy and delicious they fill the gap before dinner is ready. The funniest thing is that the Boyfriend won't touch them, as they are 'full of bird seed' so he has to make do with the minging multi-pack of baked crisps he bought by accident, thinking they were normal Walker's. Ha.

This makes a huge batch but they will keep in tupperware, and I'm going to bring some to my friend's house later when we go over for dinner. She's preggers so I thought it would be a nice change from a bottle of Schloer.

Preheat the oven to 200c. Mix the following in a large bowl: 100g each of porridge oats, sesame seeds, linseeds (yeah I know! I've never eaten them either, just marvelled at the pretty blue fields of them in the summer), sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, 350g flour (any flour, go crazy, experiment), 1tsp baking powder and 1.5tsp salt. Now add 200ml water and 125ml oil (I used plain old vegetable oil) and mix really well, it will get quite stiff but do mix it up properly. Take a third of the mixture and roll it out between two large pieces of non-stick baking paper, you want roughly the thickness of Ryvita. Peel the top layer of paper off and cut into your desired shape. I went for rectangles. Original. Carefully place the sheet onto a baking tray and cook for about 15-20 minutes until slightly browned. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

I reckon you could get pretty creative with these, maybe a little cayenne pepper or Parmesan or both? I look forward to playing with this recipe. It was entitled 'Linda's Delicious Crisp Bread' but I don't know Linda and the Boyfriend's Mum is called Brenda so they can be Brenda's.

These are seriously good warm from the oven, so that's your little treat as chef. In fact I ate so many that I didn't need lunch, much to the Boyfriend's horror, when I suggested he make himself cheese on toast for lunch. Cheese on toast for lunch? Perish the thought.

*a snack to tide one over until dinner time